Taliban Accepts Russian Invitation to Talks, Afghan Govt. Declines

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Thursday August 23, 2018

Kabul (BNA) The Taliban said on Wednesday it would send senior members to Russia for peace talks on Afghanistan, hours after the Afghan government declined the offer to attend.
Russia has invited several countries, including the United States, to the Moscow talks in September but Washington and Afghanistan have said they will not go.
"Our leaders have accepted Russia's invitation to participate in Russia-led peace talks," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
At least four senior Taliban members will attend, said a Taliban commander, adding that the delegation would be led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of the Islamist group's political office in the Qatari capital Doha.
Hours earlier, the Afghan government said it would not go, a decision that could scupper Moscow's plans for talks on Sept. 4 to discuss the future of the country.
"We have decided against attending the Moscow conference," said an official of the Afghan foreign ministry, adding that the government would "hold direct talks" with the Taliban without the direct involvement of foreign powers.
There appeared to have been a shift in Kabul's stance. Earlier on Wednesday, the office of Afghan national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, said he had asked Russia's ambassador Alexander Mantytski "to put pressure on Taliban insurgents to begin negotiations with the Afghan government".

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